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Biomass-derived electrocatalytic composites for hydrogen evolution

We have developed a catalyst made from earth-abundant molybdenum and common, humble soybeans (Mo1Soy) by a simple procedure. This catalyst, composed of a catalytic β-Mo2C phase and an acid-proof γ-Mo2N phase, drives the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) with low overpotentials, and is highly durable in a corrosive acidic solution over a period exceeding 500 hours. When supported on graphene sheets, the Mo1Soy catalyst exhibits very fast charge transfer kinetics, and its performance rivals that of noble-metal catalysts such as Pt for hydrogen production. These findings prove that the soybean (as well as other high-protein biomass) is a useful material for the generation of catalysts incorporating an abundant transition metal, thereby challenging the exclusivity of platinum catalysts in hydrogen economics.

Energy Environ. Sci. 2013, 6, 1818-1826, DOI: 10.1039/C3EE40596F.